Monroe Downtown Association moving ahead with core revitalization, seeking new members

Monroe's new downtown association is moving forward with efforts to revitalize the city's historic downtown core and seeking to broaden its membership base.

Currently awaiting state nonprofit status, the Monroe Downtown Association meets at 3 p.m. every Tuesday in the Sultan-Monroe Masonic Lodge, 125 S. Lewis St., Monroe. The association is looking for additional downtown business owners, property owners and community members to further its efforts. Additionally, the group is seeking members with grant-writing and fundraising experience, as well as people to help with boots-on-the-ground promotional efforts.

All are welcome to attend the weekly meetings.

The group's formation has been based on the framework set by Washington's official Main Street program. Managed by the Washington State Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation, the Main Street program uses a multipronged approach to facilitate historic downtown revitalization in communities across the state.

Earlier this summer the Monroe City Council agreed to a 2015 budget amendment that would allocate $25,000 to help start a new Main Street program. The seed money will be used by the city to either hire a Main Street consultant or a part-time city employee to dedicate a portion of their time to helping the group get off the ground.

The city is unable to gift public funds to any outside group or organization, but being as Main Street revitalization is in the best interest of the city, hiring staff to help forward the progress fits within acceptable parameters. The Downtown Monroe Association is a nonprofit group that will work side-by-side with the city, but remain a separate entity.

If there was enough sustained interest, Mayor Geoffrey Thomas said he would consider making a recommendation to dedicate additional funds to the program in the 2016 budget. At that point, it would be up to the Monroe City Council whether to accept his recommendation.

So far, the downtown association has a core membership base, including Dianne Forth, Jackie Kiter, Samantha Idle, Walmart co-manager Ben Allen, Paul Graf and Betsy Burnett, many of whom are Monroe residents wishing to enhance the downtown area through a deliberate and focused effort. During a recent meeting, Monroe Community Development Director Dave Osaki stressed the importance of establishing a well-rounded group with additional involvement from downtown business owners.

"I would like to see a robust organization of residents, downtown business owners and downtown property owners,GÇ¥ Osaki said. "I think it's absolutely wonderful that Walmart is represented here, in terms of the overall city perspective.GÇ¥

Board elections were held last week, with Forth elected as the president, Kiter as treasurer and Willard as vice president. The group's future agenda items include establishing a mission statement, finalizing group bylaws and creating a budget.

Photo by Chris Hendrickson Downtown Monroe Association members Paul Graf, Teresa Willard, Jackie Kiter, Samantha Idle and Dianne Forth. The group meets on a weekly basis and is currently seeking new members.


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